Monday, February 25, 2008

Tools and Users

I recently read an article by Tefko Saracevic entitled Information Science, published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science [50(12): 1051–1063] in 1999. In the last paragraph he states:

In all of this, I am afraid that the greatest danger facing information science is losing the sight of users, of human beings.

In 1999 libraries were still focused on their collections, on what they owned, and not on their users and how they could best help them access what they needed. That began to change until now we claim that we are user centered. But are we really? When I read descriptions of conference sessions in the library and archival worlds, there is a strong focus on social bookmarking and web2.0 tools. We look at all these wonderful playthings--Meebo ,Twitter, wikis, RSS feeds,, Library Thing, flickr, and yes, blogs-- and wonder how can we use them in archives and libraries instead of looking at our users and wondering how can we use these tools to better provide them with what they want and need.

We seem to be moving again towards the tools, the blocks, and away from the users and their needs and the human, face-to-face, storytelling, spiraling oral ways of connecting families and communities and sharing information, ways which are and will remain powerful and compelling.